Safety and OSHA News

10-year study: Do inspections help bring down injury rates?

What is the effect on companies of OSHA enforcement as far as future safety performance? One state has looked at ten years’ worth of records to find out.

Washington state’s Division of Safety & Health (DOSH) looked at the year leading up to a safety inspection and compared that to the year following the checkup. Its findings:

  • Fixed-site employers inspected by DOSH had a 4.3% larger decrease in compensable injury claims compared to employers that weren’t inspected.
  • Non-fixed-site employers inspected by DOSH had a 3.1% larger decrease in compensable injury claims compared to companies that weren’t inspected.
  • When you eliminate musculoskeletal (ergonomic) injuries from the picture, fixed-site companies had a 7.4% larger decrease in compensable injury claims, and non-fixed-site companies had an 11% larger decrease.

Even when DOSH didn’t find any violations, the companies had lower compensable injury rates the year after they were inspected.

DOSH’s conclusion: Enforcement makes a significant contribution to reducing claims rates and costs in the period following a visit. (You can download a PDF of the study here.)

Of course, only a small percentage of businesses get inspected each year, and it’s often because of injuries, deaths or complaints.

But states offer free and confidential safety consultation programs to small and medium-sized businesses across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. In FY 2010, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program conducted over 30,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations.

So here’s the question: Do you or would you use the consultation program to lower your company’s compensable injury rate? Let us know in the comments below.

Print Friendly

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest safety news and insights delivered to your inbox.


  1. BBaldwin says:

    The real question is, how are the safety rating results for only companies who had spot inspections? It seems pretty clear that whenever a site has an incident of a significant nature, their followup almost always leads to a better safety rating regardless of OSHA’s involvement. The true test to whether or not “inspections” lead to a better safety record is to look only at inspections that were not driven by a significant event.

  2. A pure case of manipulated numbers justifying an agency. An inspection or a written program on a shelf do not a safer workplace make…it is management commitment to safety-usually driven by an event.

  3. This article is all well-in-good regarding using OSHA compliance to come and inspect your site. However, I have heard that Federal OSHA is going to do away with their consulation program. Also, their focus is now definitely on compliance and enforcement. They are not so interested in helping out companies as they are in generating revenue through fines. And, they are not playing fair. If you are cited by OSHA, I strongly recommend talking to a safety consultant immediately. Choose one that has lots experience in dealing with OSHA so you know your rights and what they are supposed to be doing. You might find yourself in a situation in an informal conference with an over-zealous director who doesn’t play by all the rules. And, if you don’t know all the rules, you might find yourself accepting a citation and fine that could have been avoided with the right knowledge.

  4. Without top to bottom management support, pushing and encouraging a complete employee driven safety culture, these audits are worthless. The employees must feel empowered to make necessary changes in their work environment. Their pride will drive them and any issues identified in an audit will most likely be corrected quickly.

  5. Editor’s note: I’m just back from the ASSE conference where OSHA administrator and other OSHA officials spoke. They are promoting their consultation program. It certainly doesn’t seem to me that they are doing to cancel it.

  6. The question is would I use the consultation program to lower my company’s compensable injury rate? I definitely would not because I see no empirical evidence in this article that persuades me that the consultation program would be more effective than doing a better job of marketing our safety program to our workers. Getting their buy in is a better way to fix the problem rather than fixing the blame. Having OSHA do an audit may generate temporary compliance via fear, but finding ways to get them to own the safety program is where I would rather focus my resources.

  7. With higher awareness, comes greater success. This will always be true. I know, I know …why should we have to tell someone “that pan is hot… DO NOT TOUCH IT” But if you dont raise the awareness, than your results will be the same or worse than in the past. Someone WILL touch that pan! I promise you. It does not matter if your being precautionary, or just proactive, more awareness will always bring you greater results going forward.

  8. The appeal proecss in OSHA court is an effective way to come to an agreement of payment by and with the affected parties. Many of OSHA’s penalties don’t fit the violation in each specific case. All courts do this and generally both sides are disappointed. Oh, by the way, that’s how we know it was a fair and unbiased judgement. Huffing and puffing by Washington D.C. again is a political event, not a call to action.

Speak Your Mind